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How to Build a Positive Company Culture That Drives Results

Maria Petit

In this big, large society we live in, each company can be regarded as a small community. And, just like great societies have a wide array of cultures, companies must create their own. Yet, there are a lot of misconceptions about how to proceed, some people think that company culture is all about free food and ping pong tables. While those things can be a part of it, company culture is much more complex than that. In this blog post, we will discuss what company culture is and how you can build a positive company culture that drives results!

The Way We Do Things Around Here

The term organizational culture, or culture in the organizational context, was first introduced by Dr. Elliott Jaques in his book “The Changing Culture of a Factory” back in 1951.  In the book, Jaques defines culture as “the way we do things around here” and surprisingly enough, this definition is still widely used today.

While this definition somehow works, nobody can tell you the exact formula of how to get these things done. Of course, we know there are core values, traditions, and behaviors that shape the process, but how these come together to create great companies with a positive environment is what workplace culture is all about.  

What Is Workplace Culture?

Daniel Coyle, in his book The Culture Code, gives a more modern definition of workplace culture. He states that culture is “the defined set of behaviors that emerge when people encounter one another”. This means that workplace culture emerges organically from the interactions between employees.

Culture is not about what you say, it’s about what you do

It’s the habits, rituals, and routines that shape how things are done in your organization. And it’s something that every company has whether they’re aware of it or not. 

Workplace culture is how an organization’s members interact with each other, how they make decisions, and how new members are socialized into the organization

Workplace culture can be positive or negative. A workplace with a positive culture is one where employees feel valued, respected, and know they are part of something larger than themselves. On the other hand, a negative workplace culture is one where employees feel belittled, unimportant, and that their work doesn’t matter. 

We can all agree you don’t want your company to fall in the latter category, so let’s keep going to build and maintain a positive, strong company culture!

The Competitive Advantage Of A Positive Workplace Culture

The whitepaper “The Role of Workplace Culture in Recruiting Top Talent” by Robert Walters affirms that 90% of professionals conduct research on a company’s culture before accepting a role.  Therefore, positive workplace culture is not only a great environment for your employees but also has a positive effect on attracting AND retaining top talent.

What’s behind top talent anyways? Well, according to Gallup data, selecting high-talent managers can result in a 27% increase in revenue per employee above the average. As well, selecting naturally talented individual supporters can boost income by an additional 6%. That means that by cultivating a culture that attracts top talent, you could experience a 33% increase in income.

Furthermore, according to Forbes, companies with strong cultures saw a 4x increase in revenue growth. And if you plan to go public at some point, Glassdoor predicts a 0.75% stocks jump if you get to be named “Best Place To Work.”

An effective, great company culture leads to higher levels of employee engagement

Engaged employees are more productive, which leads to better results for the company as a whole. Additionally, happy employees tend to stay with companies longer, which reduces turnover saving the company money in the long run, all while leveraging your brand performance.

It’s easy to see why healthy company culture is so important in today’s competitive landscape. Not only does it make current employees happy, but it also attracts high-quality candidates, and increases levels of employee engagement and job satisfaction, resulting in a high-functioning company with lofty incomes.

Cut Differently: Types of Company Culture

Before we get into how to build positive workplace culture, it’s important to understand that there are different types of company culture. The type of culture you have will be dependent on the size of your company, your industry, your values, and your mission. For example, a start-up company might have a more informal culture, while a financial institution might have a more formal culture.

The four most common types of company cultures are: 

  • Clan Culture
  • Adhocracy Culture
  • Hierarchy Culture
  • Market Culture

Clan Culture  

Let’s say you have a small business with a close-knit group of employees. You’re all working towards the same goal and everyone is passionate about the company’s mission. This is what’s known as a clan culture. 

In a clan culture, the emphasis is on teamwork, mentorship, and employee growth. People involved feel they are a family. There are flat hierarchies and decision-making is done democratically. Because everyone feels like they are part of a bigger purpose, they are highly engaged and will go above and beyond to ensure the success of the company. 

Adhocracy Culture 

This type of culture is creative and innovative. Adhocracy cultures value new ideas and risk-taking. Employees are encouraged to be entrepreneurial and think outside the box. 

Adhocracy cultures are typically found in start-ups or companies that are rapidly growing or changing industries. Because this type of culture can be chaotic, it’s important to have a clear vision and mission that everyone is aligned with. 

In an adhocracy culture, there is a flat hierarchy, and decisions are made quickly. Employees are given the freedom to be creative and take risks. This type of culture is fast-paced and results-oriented. 

A great example of a company with an adhocracy culture is Tesla

This company believes in pursuing opportunities as they arise, without being bound by rigid rules and procedures. This allows them to be nimble and responsive to change, which is essential in the rapidly-changing world of technology.

Tesla is constantly test-driving new ideas and products, which ensures they remain at the forefront of innovation.

Wrapping up these first two types of cultures:

Hierarchy Culture 

A hierarchy culture is very formal with strict rules and procedures. There is a clear chain of command and employees know their place in the organization. This type of culture is often found in government agencies or large corporations. 

In a hierarchy culture, decision-making is slow because it has to go through multiple levels of management. Because of this, employees can feel bogged down by bureaucracy and may not have many opportunities for creativity or risk-taking. 

One example of a Hierarchy organizational culture is the military

In the military, there is a clear chain of command and soldiers are expected to follow orders from their commanding officers. Hierarchy company cultures can be beneficial because they provide a clear structure and employees know what is expected of them.

Market Culture 

In a market culture, employees are expected to be competitive and driven by results. This type of culture is common in sales-driven organizations. There is a clear hierarchy, and decision-making is based on what will generate the most revenue. Because of this, employees can feel like they are always under pressure to perform. 

There are clear hierarchies and employees are expected to be self-motivated. This type of culture can be cutthroat and if not handled correctly can hinder employee morale. 

In short, market and hierarchy cultures are:

There is really no best company culture to choose from as it depends on your values and what you’re looking for in an organization. If you value creativity and innovation, then an adhocracy culture might be a good fit for you. If you prefer a more structured environment, then a hierarchy or market culture could be a better option. 

TIP: Do some research on different types of company cultures and see which one aligns with your values!

Now that we mention “values” it’s important to understand how you choose the core values of your company since they are the foundation of a workplace with a positive culture.

 How To Choose The Core Values of Your Company? 

Every company has core values, posts them on their website, and probably has some kind of plaque with them in the lobby. Your company’s core values should be more than just a list of words that sound good together. 

Core values should be a true reflection of what your company stands for and how you want your employees to behave

For example, if one of your company’s core values is “integrity,” then you should expect your employees to be honest and transparent in their work. If “innovation” is a value, then you should experiment, and take risks. 

Choosing the right values for your company can be a daunting task, but it’s important to take the time to do it thoughtfully. Here are a few tips: 

  • Define what your company stands for: What are your company’s goals? What is your mission statement? Once you have a clear understanding of these things, you can start to narrow down which values would align with them. 
  • Get input from employees: Your employees are the ones who live and breathe your company culture every day. They will have valuable insights into which values would be most important to them and how they would like to see the culture improve. 
  • Keep it positive: Try to avoid values that could have a negative connotation, like “penny-pinching” or “cutthroat.” You want your values to inspire employees and make them feel good about coming to work. 
  • Make sure they’re actionable: Values that are vague or impossible to measure won’t do much to improve your culture. Choose values that you can see in action, like “accountability” or “teamwork.” 

Need a quick guide? Check the image below!

Some companies make the mistake of choosing values that they think sound good but don’t actually align with their actions. For example, if one of your core values is “family-first” but you have policies in place that make it difficult for employees to take care of their families,  it’s incongruent. It’s important to make sure that your values are more than just words on a piece of paper and that you are  living them out! 

Now, strong company culture needs a robust base, so how do you do it?

What Makes a Strong Team Culture?

Team culture is vital to the success of any organization. Strong team culture is built on trust, respect, and communication. Employees need to feel like they can trust their teammates and that their voices will be heard. 

When team members trust and respect each other, they are more likely to feel comfortable communicating openly. This allows for constructive feedback and positive reinforcement that can help the team reach its goals.

They should also feel like they are respected for their individual skills and contributions. Finally, communication is essential for ensuring that everyone is on the same page and working towards common goals. 

But, is this enough to build a positive work culture? This would be a no, so let’s pass the torch to an expert on this topic: Chris White, Faculty Associate of the Center for Positive Organizations (CPO) of the University of Michigan.

How to Build a Positive Company Culture That Drives Results?

In his TedTalk, “3 Ways to Create A Work Culture that Brings Out The Best in Employees”, Chris White addresses the issue of employee walkouts and checkouts and their impact on organizations worldwide, and according to him, there are 3 things you can do to improve your work culture to avoid walkouts and checkouts:

Unblock Communication

Employee walkouts and checkouts happen when staff feels that they are not being heard, not being respected, or considered in the workplace, and the sad thing about this is that all of us have experienced having our ideas shot down or ignored in the workplace. 

Chris mentions that once while working as a new manager, he asked one of his colleagues for a recommendation on a problem that she brought to him, but instead of answering, she just stood quiet, and after a long pause, she looked up and said:

 “I have never been asked what I think at work before” 

And, while this can seem shocking, it happens more than we care to admit. This statement is supported by a surprising 49% of employees polled claiming they aren’t approached for their opinions frequently. That “no one asked.” On the other hand, 35% of those polled indicated they were never asked for their opinions when they were first trained for their job position.

Then, how can we avoid this bottleneck?

Effective Communication  

Effective communication occurs when the message is clear and accurately received by the other party. So, it’s not only about opening a channel for a few messages to pass by, but actively listening to the other party, and making sure our message was clearly understood. 

A good communications system is essential to any successful workplace culture

By communicating effectively, the employees understand the objectives and the contribution they can make to the business. Effective communication should also include timely feedback, positive or negative.

Effective communications include, for example, hand-in-hand conversations with leaders or regular team meetings where all stakeholders are informed of company goals and positions. As well, regular communications include the use of intranet sites for the latest information and news about the company.

Become Responsive

Chris says it’s not enough just to hear people out, words without action breed cynicism leading to lay seeds for future walkouts and checkouts. But, what happens when managers and employees are not on the same page? Take this as an opportunity to choose which kind of culture you want your business to have. 

Are you going to skate around the bush and allow the bond between your staff and the company to become inauthentic? Or, are you going to engage in debate and dialogue to find some common ground? In this particular scenario is when trust gets challenged. Is your company going to approve this test?

Aim Higher

Always strive for more! If we want authentic companies, we need to allow authenticity to shine through the staff. Allow people to bring their whole selves to the workplace. As Chris said: “We have so much more to offer than just the sum of our résumés.” And this means inviting life experiences to guide us through the journey of business success.

Now that we finished with the list that Chris White provided, let’s add some of our tips!

Teamwork

When employees work together cooperatively, they are more likely to develop positive relationships with one another. These relationships can lead to increased trust and communication, making it easier for employees to resolve conflicts and collaborate effectively. As a result, teamwork is essential not only for achieving business goals but also for creating a positive and productive workplace culture. 

Encourage team members to work together and support each other. Help them to see the importance of teamwork in the workplace. When team members work together, they can achieve more than they could ever achieve alone. 

Promote Diversity

Diversity in the workplace is essential for creating a culture of inclusion and respect. Remember to allow employees to be themselves? When employees know that they can bring their whole selves to work, they are more engaged and productive. Diversity also helps to foster creativity and innovation, as employees are exposed to new perspectives and ideas. 

According to the Gender Action Portal by the Harvard Kennedy School, profits rise when the percentage of women in the workforce rises to 50%. 

Additionally, workplace diversity helps to build a stronger sense of community within an organization. When employees know that they are part of a supportive and welcoming environment, they are more likely to stay with the company and recommend it to others. Simply put, diversity is essential for building a strong workplace culture.

A Culture of Feedback

Within any organization, things can go wrong: people will make mistakes. However, introducing feedback cultures can reduce the chances of a mistake and build confidence. In a feedback culture, everyone is informed if there’s an error – early and often. 

A culture of feedback starts with leaders setting the tone by modeling the behavior they wish to see in their employees. For a Culture of Feedback to be successful, everyone must be committed to the process and open to hearing what others have to say. 

Purpose-Driven Company Culture

A Purpose-Driven Company Culture is one in which the company’s culture is based on its purpose or mission. In other words, the company’s culture is not just about making a profit, but about something bigger. Purpose-Driven Company Cultures are about creating a positive difference in the world. They are about making a positive impact on employees, customers, and society as a whole. 

When everyone is working towards the same goal, it creates a strong sense of community and camaraderie. Purpose-Driven Company Cultures have been shown to increase productivity and employee satisfaction.

Engagement and Loyalty

Engagement and loyalty are essential ingredients for any successful workplace culture. Engaged employees are those who are emotionally and mentally invested in their work and their company, and who feel a sense of belonging and purpose. Loyalty, on the other hand, is a commitment to stay with an organization, even when times are tough. 

While engagement and loyalty may seem like two sides of the same coin, they actually play very different roles in the workplace. 

Remember the phrase “the way we do things around here”? Imagine your staff being so disengaged that they are not even aware of what are the things that are done at your company! Just like Garfield down below, clueless! Thus, before trying to settle or change your work culture, ask yourself: Is my staff really engaged?

When employees know they are valued and supported, they are more likely to be engaged in their work and less likely to look for other opportunities. Similarly, a strong sense of community and belonging can foster loyalty, portending lower turnover rates and increased productivity.

A strong culture can help to bring employees together and provide a sense of purpose and pride for the organization they work with.

Key Characteristics That Are Essential For Driving Results: Wrapping Up 

  • Hire for attitude, not just skill. You can always train someone on the skills they need to do their job, but it’s much harder to change someone’s attitude. 
  • Empower your employees. Give them the autonomy to make decisions and trust that they will do what’s best for the company. 
  • Encourage open communication. Create an environment where employees feel comfortable coming to you with problems or suggestions. 
  • Foster a sense of community. Plan company outings, host holiday parties or start an employee recognition program. 
  • Lead by example. As the leader of your company, show your employees that you care about more than just profits. 

The Bottom Line 

Positive company culture is essential for any business that wants to thrive. But, this does not happen in random circumstances, certain characteristics and methods have to be carefully designed and managed by the management and HR teams to achieve the desired company’s culture.

By creating a positive company culture, you can engage employees, reduce mistakes, and increase productivity. To create a positive culture, focus not only on unblocking communication but on effective communication as well, teamwork, feedback, purpose-driven objectives, and employee engagementBuilding a positive workplace culture takes effort, but it is well worth it when you are sure your employees know exactly how things are done around here!

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